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24 August 1999
1) Bishop Belo in the New York Times today
1) A Day of Reckoning in East Timor
By CARLOS XIMENES BELO
Diplomatic intervention may be the only hope there is to avert a new blood bath in my native land, an area the size of Connecticut near northern Australia. First, civil war between Timorese groups erupted in August 1975, as Portugal was planning to withdraw after centuries of colonial rule. Then the Indonesian military intervened a few months later. By 1980, 200,000 or more of East Timor's population of less than 700,000 may have perished from massacres, disease and famine.
More recently, over the past six months, hundreds of people have been killed, most of them young people whose only crime was their desire to be free from Indonesian rule. They died at the hands of armed groups created by Indonesian army elements who oppose independence for East Timor, despite President B. J. Habibie's offer in January to allow the people of East Timor to vote on their future.
It is no secret that most East Timorese oppose continued Indonesian rule. If not, there would be no need to wage a campaign of violence and coercion to prevent free elections from taking place. I had hoped that observers from the United Nations Assistance Mission for East Timor would bring an end to such violence. But some of the mission's employees have been attacked as well.
Thousands of people displaced by such violence have taken refuge in churches throughout East Timor, but even here they are not safe. In April, scores of people were brutally killed by armed militias at a church in the town of Liquica. Sadly, this was only the beginning of a series of assaults. Only the other day, a food convoy organized by a Timorese nun to feed some of the many displaced people was destroyed. Houses of villagers were burned, young mothers were threatened, the hands of young people in one village slashed, all to intimidate people from voting. In other places, the military has distributed guns to allies to force people to vote the "right" way.
I have appealed for reconciliation with Indonesian forces and their Timorese allies. I have emphasized that the rights of all must be guaranteed. All along I have made clear that the church is there for everyone and is not to be used by any political faction. Yet I have concluded that only international pressure on Indonesia's army can end the violence.
Indonesia's generals, who have longstanding ties to Washington, should be made to understand that Indonesia will not receive any military assistance or the loans the country so badly needs unless the army ends its campaign of violence. And Indonesian authorities must permit the entry of international peacekeepers. After all the suffering they have endured, the people of East Timor deserve no less.
Carlos Ximenes Belo, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, East Timor, received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996.
2) Timor militias massing for war, US told
Sydney Morning Herald Monday, August 23, 1999
Armed militias massing in East Timor near the western border plan to go to war to stop the territory they hold becoming independent, United Nations officials have warned.
The officials told visiting US politicians in the town of Maliana at the weekend that the ballot to decide East Timor's future, scheduled for next Monday, should be called off in the militia-dominated district because "too many people will die".
After the confidential briefing, Senator Tom Harkin told reporters in the capital, Dili, that he would make an urgent call to President Clinton asking him to support the sending of armed UN peacekeeping troops to the former Portuguese territory.
"As one of the UN officials said, this could be a bloodbath down here," Senator Harkin said before flying to Jakarta to meet President Habibie.
The call for peacekeepers comes ahead of a visit to Canberra this week by the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Mr Stanley Roth.
In February, Mr Roth told the head of Australia's Foreign Affairs Department, Dr Ashton Calvert, that he believed a full-scale peacekeeping operation would be necessary in East Timor. Senator Harkin said there was strong evidence that Indonesia's military had worked with militia groups to sabotage the vote.
"I am going to recommend to the President [Clinton] that he recommends to the Security Council that they get some peacekeeping forces down here in a hurry."
Meanwhile, UN sources said senior Indonesian military officers in Dili were making secret contingency plans to evacuate 50,000 civilians from areas near the border with West Timor.
The plans indicate that Indonesia's police and army will allow the militias they have armed and trained to seize control of large areas of the militias' heartland either before or after the ballot.
The delegation of three MPs led by Senator Harkin was shocked to hear how the militias were terrorising independence supporters and taking away voter registration cards.
Led by Mr Joao Tavares, a 68-year-old warlord with close links to Indonesia's armed forces, the militias had access to sophisticated weapons, they were told. Mr Tavares told the Herald last week that "if I want war, there will be war".
UN officials told the senators that civilians were being kidnapped from their homes and not seen again. One of the latest victims had had his head and arms chopped off.
The officials outlined to the senators preparations by the militias to go to war, including moving their relatives across the border to the town of Atambua.
They said hundreds of independence supporters expecting violence were fleeing to forests and the mountains.
One Australian assigned to the UN contingent in Maliana said the situation was a "powderkeg". He and other UN officials in Maliana were ready to leave in a convoy for West Timor.
In Suai, a port on Timor's south coast, the US delegation saw 2,500 mostly pro-independence supporters being held as virtual hostages in a church compound.
Senator Harkin told the people: "We're going to be asking our Government and the United Nations to be providing some peacekeeping forces here. From what we've seen it's necessary to have somebody here to stop the intimidation."
The Indonesian Government has refused to consider allowing armed international peacekeepers to be sent to East Timor for the ballot, in which 450,000 people will get a choice between broad autonomy within Indonesia or independence.
3) Thousands flee E Timor town fearing militia attack
Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday 24 August, 1999
Up to 3,000 East Timorese people have fled their homes around the town of Maliana.
Independence supporters in the town are expecting to be attacked before Monday's historic vote on East Timor's future.
Today was meant to be a day of pro-independence campaigning in the town of Maliana.
Instead independence-supporting students stayed quiet within their empty office, which was the target of a militia attack six days ago.
At the town's church Father Adrana Xinenes says he knows of a plan by militia and the military to attack pro-independence people and the church in the next few days.
Father Xinenes says he has no way of defending himself. He can just sit and wait.
Schools have closed and few shops remain open in Maliana, a town in which everyone expects the worst.
4) Rights group doubts East Timor ballot can be free and fair
DILI, East Timor, Aug 24 (AFP) - Next week's landmark ballot on this territory's future will not be free and fair without a dramatic improvement in security conditions, a human rights group warned here Tuesday.
"The security situation has become worse and worse, day after day, approaching the day of the ballot," Joaquim Fonseca, spokesman for the Committee for a Free and Fair Ballot of the Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, told journalists here.
"UNAMET (the UN Mission in East Timor) obviously recognizes the problem of the violence but has not done anything to respond to it, much less prevent it from occurring."
He released a report detailing a series of attacks by pro-Indonesian militia over the past week.
Without firm action against those responsible and a real improvement in security conditions "the East Timorese will be forced to participate in a ballot which is not free and fair," the report said.
Close to 430,000 people are registered in the territory to choose next Monday whether to accept or reject an autonomy option under Indonesia.
Jakarta has said that it may grant independence if the people of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year, voted against the autonomy offer.
"It appears to us that there is no reason to continue the ballot under these conditions," Fonseca said. "The time is running out at the moment."
He did not call for a delay or cancellation of the vote but urged a review of the May 5 agreements that gave Indonesian police responsibility for security and left UNAMET military and police liaison officers unarmed.
"Under that agreement, UNAMET cannot do anything. The mandate is very specific," Fonseca said. The Committee's report urged a United Nations peacekeeping force for the territory "because it is evident that the Indonesian government has failed to fulfill its obligations."
Militia members surrendered weapons throughout the territory last week but the report called this "only a symbolic act." It quoted the commander of the militia in Dili as saying the weapons his force handed over will by kept in a special warehouse at the militia headquarters, but guarded by Indonesian police.
After a weapons surrender in the town of Ainaro, committee observers saw militia members still carrying pistols in holsters, the report said. The Roman Catholic bishop and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carlos Ximenes Belo, meanwhile, urged the international community to increase pressure on Indonesia to ensure a peaceful vote in East Timor next week.
"I pray that the United States and other nations will do whatever possible to persuade Indonesian forces to allow this choice to be made freely, and, if independence is the result, to accept it without retaliating with violence," the bishop of Dili wrote in an article in The New York Times on Tuesday.
Despite all his efforts to reconcile opposing forces in East Timor, "I have concluded that only international pressure on Indonesia's army can end the violence," he said.
Ximenes urged Washington to make it clear to the military "that Indonesia will not receive any military assistance or the loans the country so badly needs unless the army ends its campaign of violence" in East Timor.
"And Indonesian authorities must permit the entry of international peacekeepers."
"Diplomatic intervention may be the only hope there is to avert a new blood bath in my native land," he said.